Support needed for our local Independent Pharmacies

An Open letter of 30 May 2020 to Rt Hon John Whittingdale OBE MP & Cllr Bob Massey, Mayor of South Woodham Ferrers, Essex County Councillor & Chelmsford City Councillor

Dear John & Bob,

As you’ll be aware, a thousand local pharmacists have explained their most serious concerns in a letter to the Prime Minister. We were alerted to this by an article in The Times, hyperlink appended. We have spoken to Sheerag Patel at the Village Pharmacy and Mrs Govani at Govani Chemists and both of them strongly told us that they share and experience all these concerns and are sorry they didn’t have the opportunity to sign the letter. [Ed: Rowlands is a national chain.]

Our newly recruited band of a dozen volunteers (SWF Health & Social Care Group – H&SCG) have helped deliver prescription medicines to isolating patients, SWF’s pharmacists have provided essential critical services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic crisis so far and will continue to do so tirelessly. As of tonight, since 23 March 2020 H&SCG has delivered over 900 essential tasks and we’d estimate 90% of those have been the delivery of prescription medication. Some of that has been urgent, to COVID patients suffering the illness and in recovery, palliative urgent medicines and other emergency items.

The Town’s GPs and independent pharmacies saw this coming and on 20 March asked us to work in partnership with them. We had a system up and running on Monday 23 March before lockdown came into force. This has proved to be extremely effective and beneficial, much more so than the national and county-wide schemes.

So we cannot stress too highly the vital life saving and supporting role delivered, being delivered and will continue to be delivered, by our independent pharmacies. Therefore we urge you to inform the Prime Minister and Secretary of State for Health & Social Care of this and we trust there will be no hesitation in HM Government treating independent pharmacies as an essential part of the NHS effort and that they not be penalised in any shape or form but be applauded and rewarded for going so far and beyond the norm and to have answered the call to duty in such generous fashion.

Kind regards. Yours sincerely

Peter Blackman

Chair, South Woodham Ferrers Health & Social Care Group

Content originally from The Times (subscription required to access article)

Community chemists tell Boris Johnson they face financial ruin over higher drugs bills and PPE costs

Hundreds of community chemists have warned Boris Johnson that they face financial ruin over government moves to claw back £300 million in loans.

Small pharmacies were given the cash to help them deal with the coronavirus crisis but many have been operating at a loss over the past three months.

A letter to the prime minister signed by more than a thousand pharmacists states that they have faced higher drug bills, overtime payments and costs for personal protective equipment that is free to other parts of the health service.

Some pharmacists have reported that they have struggled to obtain sufficient PPE and at least five pharmacy staff have died as a result of Covid-19.

Mark Lyonette, head of the National Pharmacy Association, said that many of his members would have been “better off if they’d closed their doors to the public” and were bearing a “heavy burden” for their role in tackling the crisis.

Senior industry sources said that there was huge frustration at ministers paying tribute to them in public while the Treasury was trying to reclaim the £300 million.

In the letter the pharmacists, making clear they stayed open while many GP practices were closed, ask Mr Johnson to intervene and warn that they are on the brink of collapse.

“Local community pharmacies have stayed open, continuing to see patients and supply vital medicines,” they write. “We are putting ourselves at risk every day to help keep Britain healthy. While we welcome recent comments from the government recognising the role that pharmacies are playing, we need to see these supportive words backed up with further concrete action.”

Although pharmacies were allowed to stay open, retail sales only amount to about 10 per cent of total revenues and many have reported a drop in sales during the period.

The £300 million was handed over because in the weeks before the lockdown was announced pharmacists were struggling because of customers stockpiling medicines. This led to wholesale price increases of many prescription medicines above the amount they are reimbursed by the NHS.

More recent NHS payments do not make up for the shortfall of what pharmacies have already spent on drugs and, they claim, they are in effect being asked to subsidise the health service.